SHAUN Murphy knew he faced an uphill task to stop reigning champion Ronnie O’Sullivan. But even Murphy couldn’t have predicted how badly his worst fears came back to bite him against the ‘Rocket’ here at the Crucible yesterday.
The 2005 world champion has never beaten O’Sullivan in a ranking event in 16 years as a professional. And Murphy, formerly of Rotherham, admitted he would find it hard to live with five-time winner O’Sullivan if he were to produce his sparkling best. That happened as O’Sullivan reeled off six frames on the spin for a commanding 6-2 lead after the first session of their quarter-final clash.
“Ronnie is the best player in the game and the best player of our generation,” stressed Murphy. “He is a genius and the man everyone comes to see.
“Even us as pros love watching him play and any time he is in an event there is an extra buzz. You want to play him. The result on the day against Ronnie is up to Ronnie. The match is in his hands, but if we both play our best he wins. He is better and more naturally gifted than everyone else and has found a way of getting the best out of himself. I have just got to try and handle it and give it my best.”
Unfortunately Murphy didn’t handle the occasion despite forging into a 2-0 lead. Breaks of 101 and 59 saw to that, but he the squandered the chance of a three-frame cushion when he broke down on a break of 43.
The unpredictable O’Sullivan pinched the frame on the final black and won the next to draw level.
And it was one-way traffic after the interval as O’Sullivan compiled runs of 72, 42, 54, 94 and 136 to make it six frames in a row to take a step closer the £300,000 first prize. The pair resume to conclude their best-of-25 frame duel today with O’Sullivan needing seven frames for a 13th successive victory at the Crucible, where he has not lost at since 2011.
World No 1 Neil Robertson had a worrying start to his quarter-final clash with Judd Trump. The Aussie ace slipped 6-2 down and is still one century away from breaking the magical record of 100 century breaks in the same season. Robertson won the opening frame with a run of 45, but Trump won five frames on the spin with breaks of 63, 46, 107 and 60 for a 5-1 lead. The 2010 world champion Robertson pinched the next frame to reduce his arrears, but Trump pocketed a fine 117 break to make himself favourite to secure his semi-final place.
Last year’s beaten finalist Barry Hawkins increased a 6-2 first session lead to 11-5 to leave himself needing just two frames this afternoon for a second successive semi-final berth.
Mark Selby, the 2007 runner-up, established a 12-4 lead over 43-tear-old Alan McManus, the oldest player left in the tournament, to leave himself on the cusp of a place in the semis.